Side swipe

Those USBs aren’t the sign of a deranged mind that won’t throw anything away, they’re the mark of a collector

Tim Keen

I READ A STORY in the paper recently about some bloke in New York who has collected car brochures since he was a kid – now he has more than 13,000 of them. Steve Hayes has spent more than seven decades accumulating marketing brochures on everything from Oldsmobiles to Soviet Volgas (why did the Soviets need to market cars? Didn’t they just assign you one, and if you complained that it was terrible, they shot you?). Hayes’ collection takes up a whole room of his flat – even though he’s only ever owned one car, for just three months, back in 1960.

And the more I read, the more I thought, this guy’s a genius.

Not for collecting the brochures themselves, per se – even Steve Hayes admits that he started on a whim when he was a kid and then he just sort of never stopped because, well, the human brain is a mysterious lump of skull-fat that occasionally catches itself in a loop. It’s for re-branding himself, not as a crazy old hoarder, but as a Collector. What some people would call a massive pile of old tat, suddenly becomes a Collection.

For example, the cardboard boxes in our spare room at home filled demand by god, motoring actually but I am And the auto I’ve logos shaping they manufacturers full-size is why with old press kits – no longer will I let my darling wife nd to know when I’m going to recycle them. Because, d, they’re a collection. A potentially priceless library of ing information from… well, I dunno, I can’t be arsed to ly sort them into order. Don’t judge me: I’m not a curator, m a collector! the shoe boxes filled with USBs – and my lord, does to industry love themselves a good novelty USB stick; got ones shaped like spanners and Chevrolet and tyres and glowing crystals; they stopped ng them like the cars themselves when discovered that some cheeky Chinese acturers were 3D-scanning them to make ze knock-offs, which y the Lifan 320 looks like munted Cooper, you pull the front ike a faintly d Mini r, but if ull off nt grille you can plug it into a MacBook the size of the MCG.

But those USBs, they’re not the sign of a deranged mind that won’t throw anything away, they’re the mark of… a collector.

It’s a get-out-of-jail-free card for anything you can’t be arsed to carry up to the bins. Old ice cream containers filled with oddsized washers you haven’t touched in years? You’re a collector.

Valve stem caps forgotten by the air-pumpers of yore, and saved in the ashtray because “you never know when it’ll come in handy”? Collector. Jam jars filled with Allen keys from… well, god knows what they’re from now, because long after the item has disappeared into obscurity, the Allen key remains, the cockroach of the hardware world. Except, no – collection!

And the good news is, there’s almost surely someone out there who’s a passionate collector too. It’s the same principle as internet porn. With seven billion people on the planet, if you can think of it, someone is into it. And if you’re lucky, that someone is willing to pay for it. The Steve Hayes brochure collection is being auctioned off for – wait for it – $100,000. Now your mind is suddenly wondering if you have a stash of old car M brochures too, isn’t it? Mine too. In fact, I’m wondering if there’s a lonely billionaire out there with a penchant for novelty USB sticks and spec sheets with dicks drawn on them. Maybe Steve Hayes. He’s got money to throw away now. And he needs something new to collect.